From the Midwife’s Bag to the Patient’s File

Public Health in Eastern Europe
$100.00 / €90.00 / £79.00
Publication date: 
358 pages, 19 photos

This volume offers an analysis of the intertwined relationship between public health and the biopolitical dimensions of state- and nation building in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. It challenges the idea of diverging paths towards modernity of Europe’s western and eastern countries by not only identifying ideas, discourses and practices of “solving” public health issues that were shared among political regimes in the region; it also uncovers the ways in which, since the late nineteenth century, the biopolitical organization of the state both originated from and shaped an emerging common European framework. 

The broad range of local case studies stretches from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czechoslovakia, the GDR, Greece and Hungary, to Poland, Serbia, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Taking a time span that begins in the late nineteenth century and ends in the post-socialist era, the book makes an original contribution to scholarship examining the relationship between public health, medicine, and state- and nation building in Europe’s long twentieth century. Close readings and dense descriptions of local discourses and practices of “public” health help to reflect on the transnational and global entanglements in the sphere of public health. In doing so, this volume facilitates comparisons on the regional, European, and global level.

Table of Figures


Heike Karge, Friederike Kind-Kovács and Sara Bernasconi: Introduction: From the Midwife’s Bag to the Patient’s File: Public Health in Eastern and Southeastern Europe

Part I: (Medical) Agents and Modern State Building

Chapter I: Maria Zarifi: Moving Backward Toward Modernity: The Role of the Medical Council in the Organization of Public Health in Greece, 1834–1924

Chapter II: Angelika Strobel: Creating the “Railway Population”: Public Health and Statistics in Late Imperial Russia

Chapter III: Justyna A. Turkowska: Mastering Troubling Borders: The Ambivalence of Medical Modernization in the Prussian Province of Posen

Chapter IV: Sara Bernasconi: The Material Side of Modernity: The Midwife’s Bag in Bosnia and Herzegovina around the Turn of the Century

PART II: Health after Europe’s World War

Chapter V: Katrin Steffen: Who Belongs to the Healthy Body of the Nation? Health and National Integration in Poland and the Polish Army after the First World War

Chapter VI: Friederike Kind-Kovács: Transatlantic Humanitarianism: Jewish Child Relief in Budapest after the Great War

Chapter VII: Alexander Friedman: The Bodily Disabled as a Poster Boy–Veteran: War Invalids in the Soviet Union after the Second World War

Chapter VIII: Heike Karge: Afflicted Heroes: The Rise and Fall of Yugoslav War Neurosis after the Second World War

Part III: Regulating Societies after 1945: State-Socialist Policies and Legacies

Chapter IX: Fanny Le Bonhomme: Politics and Family Conflicts through the Psychiatric Lens: East Berlin’s Charité in the early GDR

Chapter X: Esther Wahlen: Turning Women into Alcoholics: The Politics of Alcohol in Late Socialist Czechoslovakia

Chapter XI: Eszter Varsa: “The Gypsy Population Is Constantly Growing”: Roma and the Politics of Reproduction in Cold War Hungary

Chapter XII: Andre Thiemann: Underimplementing the Law: Social Work, Bureaucratic Error, and the Politics of Distribution in Postsocialist Serbia

Collective Bibliography

List of Contributors:


"Obwohl öffentliche Gesundheitsfürsorge einen wesentlichen Bestandteil des nation building im Prozess der Modernisierung, Nationalisierung und Institutionalisierung von Staaten darstellt, beschränkte sich die historische Forschung bisher vornehmlich auf den anglo-amerikanischen und westeuropäischen Teil der Welt. Wie in vielen anderen Bereichen auch wurden ostmittel- und südosteuropäische Staaten, ohnehin mit dem Stigma der Rückständigkeit belegt, kaum in die Analysen einbezogen. Die Herausgeberinnen des vorliegenden Bandes halten sich indessen nicht lange mit Klagen über diese Schieflage auf, sondern formulieren die weitreichende Hypothese: 'with our focus on public health, we argue that the paths to twentieth-century modern and late modern statehoods were, in fact, not so different between the ‚East‘ and the ‚West‘ of Europe.' Die methodische und thematische Vielfalt, die nicht mit Beliebigkeit verwechselt werden darf, macht diesen Sammelband zu einer sehr... more
"La colección de doce trabajos reunidos por Karge, Kind-Kovács y Bernasconi en torno a la sanidad de los siglos XIX y XX en el sureste de Europa se presenta muy correctamente, encabezada por una introducción, firmada por los editores, a la que siguen doce capítulos separados en tres apartados por orden cronológico, una bibliografía reunida, lista de autores e índice de materias. La impresión es elegante, los márgenes cómodos y el texto se puede seguir bien. El libro se lee con agrado, los casos son interesantes y variados temáticamente y están bien abordados, aunque hay lógicas diferencias en una autoría tan amplia. Por destacar alguno, me inclino por el especialmente ingenioso capítulo sobre las matronas, firmado por una de las editoras, Sara Bernasconi, que es una muestra excelente del llamado material turn en la historiografía de la ciencia."